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The Sahara desert: Gacel (Mark Harmon), a noble and proud Tuareg
warrior, grants two strangers who have been wandering through the desert
abode, but soon enough soldiers come and demand him to hand over his
guests. To the Tuareg though, hospitality is holy, and Gacel refuses - so
the soldiers take them by force, shooting the younger of the couple and
taking the older one, Abdul El Kabir (Luis Prendes) with them.
Gacel cannot live with the shame of having not offered a guest to his
house proper hospitality, so he first goes after the bedouin guide
(Giovanni Cianfriglia) who has betrayed his guests to the soldiers in the
first place, and after having killed him, he does everything in his power
to a) have revenge on the Captain of the soldiers who invaded his home and
b) free Abdul El Kabir, and thanks to his enormous endurance, his
exceptional knowledge of the desert and his talent for guerilla warfare
(all of which comes ratehr natural to a Tuareg warrior), he succeeds on
both accounts. Only then does he learn that Abdul El Kabir is an
overthrown political leader who wants to be reinstalled as president of
the country to finally bring justice to all - and even if politics never
interested Gacel in the first place (up until recenmtly he thought the
land was still under French rule and there were no frontiers in the
desert), he starts to have respect for his guest. Gacel now wants to take
Abdul El Kabir straight through the worst part of the desert to a
neighbouring country that grants Abdul El Kabir safe passage, because
taking him through this part of the desert is the only way to shake off
his enemies, but still, when they've almost made it, the army seems to be
waiting and even though Gacel puts up a fierce fight, everything seems to
be lost ... when the army of the neighbouring country arrives to side with
him and blow up his pursuers.
Gacel's mission now seems fulfilled - but he learns that the current
dictator-president of his country has kidnapped his wife (Ritza Brown) and
son (Kasimir Berger), so gacel has to go to the capital and send the
president a warning to release them within one week otherwise he will kill
him. Learning about that, the dictator orders his men to hunt down and
kill Gacel ... and they almost succeed, wounding him badly, and he only
barely survives in hiding, waiting for the one week he has given the
president to pass.
In this week though, the president is overthrown and Abdul El Kabir is
installed as the new president ... but at a parade in his honour, Gacel,
yet ignorant to this president's actual identity shoots him. Only when he
sees Abdul El Kabir dieing does Gacel realize the grave error he has made
Though most often advertised as little more than a guerilla warfare
film in the wake of the Rambo-series, Tuareg: The Desert
Warrior is actually one of action auteur Enzo G.Castellari's most
personal films, an intelligent and introspective excursion into the
archaic yet noble mindset of the Tuareg and their clash with a
civilisation they neither want nor need, with the action taking backseat,
which results in a relative lack of elaborate setpieces Castellari has
become famous for over the years (though all of the action is still very
nicely staged). At the box office the film pretty much bombed, most
probably due to three main reasons:
- For the action crowd, the film was a tad too intellectual and not
- For the world cinema crowd the film was not authentic enough (e.g.
there are no real Tuareg in the cast, at least not in main roles,a nd tebh
film wastes little time in documenting the daily routines of the Tuareg,
something the world cinema crowd seems to just love). Plus, there's too
much action and the film isn't boring enough.
- And last but not least, in 1984, Italian adventure movies were no
longer as much in demand as 10 years earlier, as by the early 1980's, a
brainless moloch called Hollywood Blockbuster had unfortunately
started to take over your local movie theatre, even in Europe.
That all said, Tuareg: The Desert
Warrior might not be Castellari's best movie (that's probably still Keoma
and always will be), but it's an interesting, intelligent, well-made and
well-told piece of action cinema that is actually offering an alternative
to the same-old, same-old.